Some of Wales’ biggest councils – including Cardiff, Vale of Glamorgan and Carmarthenshire – are missing out on millions of pounds a year by failing to use powers to raise council tax on second homes, research has revealed.
Since a change to the law in 2014, councils have had the power to raise council tax by up to 100% on empty properties and second homes.
But research from the Welsh language society, Cymdeithas yr Iaith, shows that only nine local authorities have decided to use the powers, raising over £20 million for public services as a result.
Pembrokeshire Council is the local authority that has benefited most from the policy taking in £5.8 million over three years. Powys and Ynys Môn has collected over £4 million each, with Gwynedd Council receiving £2.2 million in higher tax receipts in a single year and Flintshire over £1.3 million.
Eight councils said they hadn’t used the powers at all – Carmarthenshire, the Vale of Glamorgan, Caerffili, Penybont, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Torfaen, Newport and Neath Port Talbot.
Cardiff Council has imposed a council tax premium on long term empty properties this year, but not on second homes. The language campaigners didn’t receive a response from four local authorities.
Responding to the news, Robat Idris from language campaign group Cymdeithas yr Iaith said the figures were surprising.
“Some of them are missing out on millions of pounds they could be investing in council housing or schools,” he said.
“Cymdeithas campaigned for these tax powers for councils as a way of tackling the problem of second homes, which are serious in terms of the sustainability of communities, services and the Welsh language.
“But also, this higher council tax is a way of ensuring that more resources are available to invest in local communities and services.
“It’s encouraging to see a number of councils have benefited from Cymdeithas’ campaign to secure the tax powers. We’re aware that in Gwynedd the local authority in investing the extra receipts in housing for local young people – and they deserve plaudits for that.
“Second homes are part of a wider problem about how society looks at housing. Instead of thinking about houses as speculative assets, having somewhere to live should be a basic human right.
“The Welsh Government should consider further ways of addressing the problems – for example, they should look at the examples in Cornwall of restrictions placed on the proportion of homes in a community that can be second homes.”
He said Cymdeithas yr Iaith were now campaigning for councils to be able to raise taxes on tourism.
“In a number of parts of the country it needs to be recognised that tourism has an impact on the community, it’s only right therefore that local people have a chance to raise money to invest in local infrastructure and services,” Robat Idris said.
“These tourism taxes are commonplace around the world.”